WILMETTE PARK DISTRICT
PARKS AND RECREATION COMMITTEE MEETING
Date: March 19, 2012
Location: Community Recreation Center
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Commissioners: Murdock; Crowley; Graham; Brault; Olvany; Benz
Staff: Lambrecht; Bingham; Bowen; Specht; Groves; Wilson; Eppelheimer
Visitors: See attached record
Topics for Discussion:
1) Meeting Called to Order
2) Approval of Minutes
3) Communications and Correspondence
4) Recognition of Visitors
5) Manager’s Reports
6) Old Business
a) Paddle Tennis
7) New Business
a) Commonwealth Edison Lease Agreement at West Park
1) The Committee reviewed the minutes of February 21, 2012 which were approved by General Consent.
2) The Committee reviewed a letter from Jeff Later suggesting that instead of a fence on the overlook increased enforcement and parking restrictions could solve the problems. Commissioner Crowley reported he had an inquiry about why the “ship” at the Gillson Park tot lot had been removed. Staff responded that it was in very poor condition and unsafe. A replacement was budgeted for and is on order. The Committee also reviewed additional petitions and communications about the Gillson Overlook.
3) Under Recognition of Visitors, Commissioner Murdock moved to have a discussion of the Gillson Overlook added to the agenda. It was seconded by Commissioner Crowley.
Fred Fitzsimmons stated he attended all of the Lakefront Commission meetings, had submitted numerous recommendations and is in favor of the fence. He believes the Park Board gave in too quickly and that he has been on the overlook during hot weekend afternoons and believes that for safety’s sake the fence is the only answer. He also believes it could be a revenue generator. He went on to add that Police Chief Brian King had attended one of the Lakefront Commission meetings and that he stated to them that social media is being used to get the word out about the park and that some gang presence had been found.
He also stated that the Police have increased patrols at the park but that is not the only area of the Village that needs to be patrolled and they cannot commit to having endless resources. The lack of a fence is opening up the Park District to lawsuits due to the fact the area is an attractive nuisance. He asked that the Park Board revisit the entire issue because he feels they are putting off making a decision that would be the ultimate solution.
Commissioner Murdock asked Executive Director Wilson if we were paying for the police in the park. Mr. Wilson responded that we have been paying for off-duty police in uniform to work weekends to supplement the regular police patrols and park staff. However, it has not been effective in stopping rule violations because of the vast area and the number of people. In regards to being liable for accidents, the Park District is protected by the State’s Tort Immunity law. He added that last year the Police issued 750 tickets within the park for various violations and the Village receives the revenue from the tickets that are paid.
Commissioner Graham stated he agrees that something needs to be done to stop the swimming in areas posted as no swimming. The real issue is the means by which the Park District controls the problem and staff is in the process of reviewing alternatives. The ideal situation would be if the Park District was able to control swimming in the “no swimming” areas then some people will transition to the pay beach. The issues aren’t limited to swimming; they also include crowding and garbage. He believes that security needs to be increased and that security personnel need to be positioned at fixed locations instead of walking the beach and that the police are called if they are ignored by the public. He also added that a lot of people go to this area just to sit and that they will be allowed to do that. Staff will just have to be more diligent about clearing them out of the water.
Mari Terman stated she believes Mr. Fitzsimmons should have stated his opinion at the Park Board meeting. The results of that meeting were that the Committee was charged with working with staff to find an alternative to increase enforcement. The overwhelming number of objectors to the fence was a result of a movement that started as friend-to-friend and grew quickly from that point.
Commissioner Murdock asked staff to present the recommendations they have developed so far. Superintendent Bingham reported that staff is developing plans that will show that we will be more vigilant than in past years. Staff is proposing that we install five stations with personnel at all times with radios. They will not be lifeguards but will be older personnel. In addition to the staff at the stations, there will be some roamers walking the shoreline. They will also patrol the pier and the Aquatics beach. The dog beach is already staffed. Getting people out of the water is difficult and the goal is to prevent them going into the water to begin with.
In response to questions, Superintendent Bingham reported that the “stations” will be chairs that will place the security personnel high enough to see over the people. At each station there will be clear signage and trash cans along with recycling capabilities. Staff will work with the Police Department who will assist in finding the best people for the job and they will also assist in making sure they understand what will be expected of them and at what point should they contact the police for assistance.
Mary Shea asked why the Park District stopped monitoring the area. Staff replied that they did not stop; it was just that the number of people grew faster than staff could keep up with. It is also difficult to enforce the rules with high school and college aged staff members who are essentially ignored and very often intimidated. Mrs. Shea also asked if the fence extension that was installed before would be removed. Staff replied that it would not. That area is very heavily used by the summer camp programs during the week and some adults like going to that area to sunbathe on weekends.
Commissioner Olvany asked why so many stations are being proposed. Staff replied that if we are going to put an end to the problems, we are better off staffing heavily to begin with. Each station will cover about 230 feet. Once the problem is under control, the number of chairs can always be reduced. The numbers would also be fewer during the week with maximum presence on the weekends. Commissioner Olvany also asked why lifeguards are not being used. Staff replied that the purpose of the staff was not to guard swimmers but rather to keep people out of the water. Once again, the lifeguards are typically high school or college aged students and staff believes it needs an older presence in that area.
Charlie Shea asked if that meant there was no life-saving capability and if there would be additional signage. He also asked if there would be a charge for using the area. Staff replied that there would be staff available in case of an emergency but that lifeguards are not security personnel and that’s what is needed on the overlook. Staff added that there would continue to be no charge for using the overlook area. There is no way to control that unless you have a fence in place.
Mr. Shea asked if the Park District is working with the Police to control parking outside of Gillson. He went on to state that the topic was discussed at length at the Lakefront Commission meetings. Commissioner Brault replied that the Lakefront Master Plan is still in the design phase and is still forthcoming. Staff added that the parking regulations outside of the Park are under the control of the Village, not the Park District.
Someone in attendance asked why food is not allowed on the swimming beach. Staff replied that the issue is increased garbage which attracts the seagulls that congregate wherever food is allowed on beaches. Other park districts and the Illinois Department of Public Health have recommended that we not allow food on the beach. Chicago has had issues with gulls and that has increased the number of closings at some beaches. Another thing to remember is that we have a much larger swimming area than any other suburban park district and is the largest beach between Chicago and the Illinois Beach State Park.
Mary Shea asked if the wrought iron fence would be removed which was installed a few years ago since it is the wrong type of fence for the beach. Staff replied that there is no intention of removing the fence since some barrier is needed if the Park District is going to continue to charge to use the beach.
Commissioner Brault asked how use of the Aquatics beach would be controlled. Staff replied that a roving staff member would patrol that area. He also asked if the security personnel would be able to write tickets. Staff replied that this would be part of the discussion that will take place with the Police Department. Commissioner Brault also added that he believes staff should be on duty on the overlook into the evening hours or at least to coincide with the swimming beach hours.
Mr. Fitzsimmons reported he was at the park the previous night and people had a big bonfire going on the overlook and no one seems to be enforcing the rules.
Mari Terman stated she believes that later enforcement is important since otherwise people will just work around the hours that staff is on duty. Commissioner Olvany suggested relocating the entrance to the dog beach. In that way, the monitor on site could be watching the Aquatics beach as well.
Mrs. Shea suggested that a gate be installed at the Washington Avenue “exit” to the park to control the access at night. Currently, a lot of people use that exit after the park closes. Staff replied the Coast Guard and Harbor have staff members who need to have access at all hours. Emergency vehicles would also have to have access. Mrs. Shea suggested that they be given cards that would allow them access so the gate and which would keep people out who have no business in the park. Staff added that the police are pretty vigilant about patrolling the park after closing and chasing people out.
After further discussion, the Committee asked that staff formalize their recommendations and provide them with a report that the Park Board can discuss at its April meeting.
4) The Committee next discussed Paddle Tennis. Commissioner Murdock began by stating that staff had previously developed a report three years ago and have updated portions of the report but there is now a need to evaluate location options.
Nate Parsons from the Glenview Country Club stated that the sport is growing rapidly and there is no winter competition for the sport. Commissioner Murdock asked that, in his opinion, if a facility were built would participation be better if it were run by the Park District or by an Association. Mr. Parsons replied that if the Park District runs it, they could encounter a lot of possible issues. The Association which runs the courts at the Winnetka Park District has worked out very well. Commissioner Graham asked if there is no Association, how a membership would be developed. He also stated he is concerned that there may be a point when our area is over-saturated with paddle courts. Mr. Parson replied that people like to play at multiple locations and most courts built today are at clubs and are not public.
Executive Director Wilson stated that staff has obtained different projections from other park districts that have facilities. Commissioner Crowley asked what they have told park district staff about what their projected revenues and expenses show. Superintendent Eppelheimer responded that they project a modest operating profit. Commissioner Brault asked where staff obtained the fees from these other districts that were used in these projections. Superintendent Eppelheimer replied they were obtained from Winnetka, Lake Bluff and other area park districts. He indicated staff evaluated different models to come up with their projections which the summary sheets have indicated. Commissioner Murdock asked if the projections show that people would have to pay the full-rate to breakeven. Executive Director replied that they would have to pay the full rate. Commissioner Murdock asked how someone develops an Association out of thin air. Mr. Parsons replied that you need a following or a core group who will work to develop the Association and then it typically expands quickly. Commissioner Olvany asked if most players play at country clubs including nationally. Mr. Parsons replied that on the east coast it is all about country clubs. In the Midwest, park districts are becoming more prevalent. Commissioner Crowley asked what the median age is for paddle tennis participants. Mr. Parsons stated that the average age is 45. He also added that the participation in the sport is growing exponentially. Commissioner Crowley asked if he believes it would be a problem to attract members. Mr. Parsons replied that if Wilmette develops a facility, he believes it will be a huge draw. There could be 20 teams in the first year with ten people on a team. There could also be a lot of lessons. The other thing to take into consideration is that the sport is expanding to year-round use.
Superintendent Bowen noted that when staff was doing their research, the Associations in Winnetka, Hinsdale and Lake Forest all provided money for construction of the courts, hut or both. At Hinsdale, they sell memberships and the Leagues charge extra. Commissioner Graham asked if leagues can be exclusionary and is there a capacity issue. Mr. Parsons replied that Winnetka and Hinsdale take as many members as possible. Commissioner Brault added that they could be operated like the golf course wherein they buy memberships and there is a lottery and leagues. Commissioner Graham stated he wants to make sure it isn’t an Association facility only and that there will be some open times for anyone to play. Mr. Parsons stated the leagues are set to specific times so there is open time and weekends are typically wide open. In Hinsdale, the park district hired the pro as did Winnetka and the association has 350 members.
Commissioner Olvany asked if we would be able to get people to play here if they are already playing somewhere else. Also, would we need to get people in Winnetka to play in Wilmette. Mr. Parsons replied that if they can play at a higher level here they will play at both locations or relocate. Commissioner Olvany asked how hard it is to move. Commissioner Brault responded that the park district starts the program and facility and then the association is sure to follow. Commissioner Crowley stated he believes there should be an attempt to get an association started before there is a commitment to build a facility.
The Committee then reviewed a document from staff that outlined every land parcel the District operates as a park as potential locations for a paddle tennis facility. After the initial review of all locations, most locations were rejected because they were too small or already heavily utilized and approximately 7 locations were still under consideration. After reviewing the remaining locations more closely, the Committee determined that only three park locations should be further considered. Commissioner Murdock asked that staff develop costs for three locations; Gillson Park, Centennial Park, and West Park; by the April Committee meeting.
Commissioner Brault asked Mr. Parsons about the development costs. Mr. Parsons replied that it is important to have the flexibility to expand and that the hut is big enough. Access to utilities plays a big role in development costs.
5) Under New Business, Commissioner Murdock recognized Marilyn-Urrutia who expressed concerns over the new rules regarding organizing school-based soccer teams. She asked that the Park District reconsider the change since so many parents count on car pooling for practice and games. The children currently
play because they like to do so with their friends. Commissioner Murdock asked if she thought we would lose third and fourth graders. Ms. Urrutia replied that she believes that would happen. Superintendent Bingham responded there is a drop-off in third grade teams due to children joining the travel programs. Staff works to keep teams by schools through the second grade but by the third grade level, they have to combine children from various schools to make teams. Ms. Urrutia asked that the staff reconsider the options. Jeff Groves replied that the children’s fear is that they will be on a team with people they don’t know. After further discussion, Commissioner Murdock asked that staff review the policy further and report back at the April Committee meeting.
6) Under Manager’s Reports, Holly Specht reported the sailing lottery was held on March 3. Twenty new residents received spaces and there were 58 new renters. New racks have been built for paddle boards and windsurfers. New programs for the summer include kayaking for kids and an overnight family camp-out on August 4 which includes dinner and breakfast and a Junior Lifeguard program. Five sessions of sailing lessons are already filled.
Jeff Groves reported that basketball programs had ended for the year. The Saturday program had 646 participants and there were 562 in the Sunday program. Soccer begins April 21 and the coaches meetings will be held on April 4 and 5. Lacrosse has 183 participants and begins April 2 at Vattmann and Gillson Parks. Men’s Basketball ended after spring break with a final count of 22 teams. In Performing Arts, Music Man Jr. just ended in the Children’s Theatre. The North Shore Theatre of Wilmette is presenting Guys and Dolls beginning April 13. Most of the Summer Camps are doing well and staff is busy hiring counselors. The camps begin on June 11.
7) Under Old Business, Superintendent Lambrecht reported he was finally able to get a lease from ComEd for the property at West Park. They will allow the installation of a fence for the dog play area as long as large gates are included for them to gain access if necessary.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 8:31 p.m.
MINUTES APPROVED ON APRIL 16, 2012.